Two players who were third-stringers two weeks ago, quarterback Norman (Boomer) Esiason and tailback Willie Joyner, will start for Maryland Saturday night in its Atlantic Coast Conference football opener at North Carolina State, Coach Jerry Claiborne said yesterday.
Claiborne, already frustrated by numerous injuries to his regulars, then watched Joyner pull a groin muscle in practice only hours later. But after ice was applied to the injured area, Claiborne gave Joyner a brief workout and the injury did not appear to be serious.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," the coach said. "Somebody has just got to get well."
Junior John Nash, who appears to have recovered from a bruised knee and asthma attacks, practiced for the first time in 10 days, as a first-team tailback.
Esiason and Joyner, both sophomores, have become starters because of injuries and fairly impressive performances in last Saturday's 17-13 loss to West Virginia.
Claiborne also said he intends his 0-2 team to run the ball more, especially on third-down-and-short-yardage plays and near the goal line. He had said during the preseason that Maryland -- criticized annually for being too conservative and not passing more -- would open up its offense.
"Look at the Redskins," Claiborne said, offering as an example the team that has averaged 44 passes in its 0-3 start this season. "You've got to be able to run and control the football if you want to win. On third and three, you must be able to run the football. If you're a strong running team, those folks on defense can't pin their ears back and chase your passer on every down. We haven't had a blend the first two games, and we need one."
The Terps have passed 56 times this season while running 90 times. An ideal "blend" for Claiborne probably would be about 20 passes and 50 rushes a game. Over the last five seasons, Maryland teams have averaged 20 passes; at its present rate, Maryland would throw 28 passes a game, 308 for the season and 76 more than any Terrapin team since 1976.
Maryland is expected to run against State even if all-ACC tailback Charlie Wysocki is not fully recovered from the right ankle sprain that kept him out of the West Virginia game and has prevented him from practicing at full speed this week.
Second-string tailback Tim Whittie pulled a hamstring in practice Monday but apparently has recovered and practiced with the first team yesterday.
Joyner, a straight-ahead runner, gained 96 yards in 30 carries against West Virginia. Depth, however, is thin. Behind Wysocki, Whittie and Nash, the next tailback is Dale Morris, a freshman walk-on. And Claiborne learned yesterday that Morris' nose had been broken in Monday's practice.
Another walk-on, Steve Burke, learned he had fractured his wrist in last week's junior varsity game.
Wysocki, who gained more than 1,000 yards rushing in each of his last two seasons, says he will be ready to play Saturday.
The other new first-stringer, quarterback Esiason, said yesterday he won't mind throwing the ball less if the Terps can win a game.
"If Maryland can muscle the ball into the end zone, why not do it?" Esiason said three days after completing 15 of 32 passes for 164 yards in his first varsity appearance. Eight of those incompletions were well-thrown passes that were dropped by receivers.
"Coach Claiborne isn't giving up on the passing game," Esiason said. "He has confidence in the passing attack. But we do have Wysocki and Joyner back there. And Joyner may be better than Charlie by the time he's a senior. Anyway, I don't have the greatest spiral in the world. It's a Bobby Douglass-type of pass."
The 6-foot-4 Esiason said he is happy, of course, to be named starting quarterback, but added, "I didn't win the starting job from anybody. I won it by default." Brent Dewitz, who started the opener at Vanderbilt, had knee surgery last week and probably is out for the season; Bob Milkovich, the No. 2 man, has bruised ribs and has practiced little this week.
Claiborne said he has not decided on a permanent quarterback, but indicated that another creditable performance by Esiason will make it hard to dislodge him.